The Tampa Bay Buccaneers improved to 2-0 on this young season by beating the defending champion Philadelphia Eagles 27-21 this afternoon. They won the game thanks in large part to backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick, who will be elevated to the Bucs’ Plan A if he keeps playing like this.
Fitzpatrick is starting the first three games of the Buccaneers’ season while Jameis Winston serves a suspension for groping an Uber driver. And at least by some measures, the 35-year-old second-string journeyman has played better in his first two starts than Winston ever has in any of his three seasons. In Tampa Bay’s 48-40 Week 1 win over the Saints, Fitzpatrick threw for 417 yards on just 28 attempts, with four touchdowns and no picks. Today, against the Eagles, he got 402 yards on 33 attempts, with four more TDs, and just one interception in the first quarter.
Early on, Fitzpatrick was most impressive, throwing for a pair of 75-yard touchdowns to give Tampa the initial momentum. The first, to former Eagle DeSean Jackson, came on the game’s very first play from scrimmage, while the second, to O.J. Howard, happened on the first play after a lengthy equalizing Eagles touchdown drive.
Two red zone TD passes—one at the end of the first half and another early in the third—gave the Bucs a 27-7 advantage and enough of a cushion to ride out the victory. So far this season, Fitzpatrick has looked like a changed man—uh, both on and off the field:
He’s got one more game against the Steelers, whom Patrick Mahomes destroyed today, before Winston is eligible to return. And he might get the following game, too, since the Bucs will have a short week. But if Fitzpatrick keeps it up, he probably shouldn’t see the bench at all. His QB ratings were 156.3 in Week 1 and 144.4 in Week 2, and even if you take the lesser of those two numbers, Jameis Winston has never achieved higher in any game of his pro career.
Of course, this hot streak from FitzMagic isn’t going to last—he’s 35, let me remind you—but for as long as it goes on, why not stick with him? It’s not like this is some sure-thing stud he’s displacing—it’s just a questionably effective young guy with a propensity for eating his fingers. The Winston era so far for the Bucs has been a disappointment, for many reasons. Now that they’ve stumbled upon a QB who isn’t letting them down, however random it might be, there’s no reason yet to brush him off so soon.